The other day the wifey and I had a small conversation about college and whether or not it is still relevant in todays world. It seems there are many paths to learning and many ways to find your purpose in life, and how to learn how to do that purpose.
It seems there are many ways to learn and gain experience and I questioned whether or not college was still a vital route. As I pondered this further in Introvertville I began reflecting on some of the influences that I still carry with me from my college days.
I think there is value in focused study and practice. As with anything you get what you put into it. I think some people approach college as something to get through. Just do the bare minimum to pass. As with most things the more investment and curiosity you have, the great the result. I view my college experience as rewarding and feel as though I put in a decent amount of effort. Here are some of the things that I still retain that I learned in college:
Perceived constrictions are not real. There are more possibilities. You don't have to do it like everyone else does. I had a preconception about what photography was capable of. My experience was something very different and diverse. I remember the demonstration on long exposures. Our professor turned out the lights and lit fireworks. This is something that sparked an interest in photography. We learned best practices but also where there are windows to escape the rigid constructs that I had imagined prior to taking the class. I enjoyed experimenting and discovering different techniques and exploring new artists.
Productivity can double before 9am. While many in the art department would grind out working well into the night I developed a routine of going into the studio at 7am during the week and on Saturday. I found this to be the best time to be in the studio without any distractions because everyone else it there late at night and sleeping on Saturdays. Plus I could listen to whatever music I wanted to.
Make your own surfaces. I learned it is better to make your canvas fit your idea instead of trying to fit your idea into a canvas. This is a practice I have come to value more over time. Not only for originality, I feel more connected to my work because my hands have touched it from the beginning. I love rough and organic edges, something that store bought surfaces and canvases do not provide.
Make a lot of junk. And then rework it. and then rework that. and then paint over half of it. Then paint over the other half. Then paint over all of it. Then make another one. Experiment. Fail. Learn. Don't let anything be precious. Although you may love a certain part of a painting, if it doesn't work for the whole piece, it must be eliminated.
Sometimes the opposite of what you thought the right answer is is what the right answer is.
Playing dodge kite in the middle of the night is fun.
You can catch gophers in apple juice jugs.
Art History lecture is a great place to have lunch.
You can learn more in critique than in a closet. One of the things I miss most about the college art experience is having daily access to other artists asking similar questions, getting different answers and learning from the mistakes and successes of others. In addition, being forced to talk about your art makes you think about your art more. Learning to make art is about asking questions both of others and of your self.